On their debut album, Cashmere, the Swet Shop Boys’ broadness of discussion was only outdone by the South Asian diaspora that came to inform their work. Like so many of the finest rappers of this generation, Heems and Riz MC tackled those same serious issues with more than a touch of tongue-in-cheek whilst maintaining a strong sense of their message and consciousness even during the most humorous of one liners. And even if you couldn’t digest the narrative, which is deeply rooted in their respective backgrounds, the duo’s go-to producer Redinho deals confidently in producing supreme bangers.
On the Swet Shop Boys’ latest project, the Sufi La EP, the political edge takes a backseat here; Heems and Riz MC have their eyes set on a party- but certainly one not on the same post-apocalyptic campaign trail as Gorillaz’s recent efforts. Hailing from Queens, Heems’ relaxed flow recalls Jay-Z whereas Riz MC, despite his strong British grime inflection, comes off like Eminem in his aggressive delivery and fondness for one liners.
The opening track ‘Anthem’ sets the looser tone extremely well: ‘fuck the Pet Shop Boys,’ shouts Heems during the choppy intro. Riz’s retort is similarly playful: ‘I’m Paki Chan, I’m Paki Robinson, I’m Pak Nicholson/Full brown on the rocks, I’m Pak Daniels!’ The stakes are obviously lower on Sufi La; the political tensions of their previous work are soothed by a quest for laughs. ‘Birding’, easily the most eccentric track on Sufi La, is a testament to that. Heems goes solo here over Redinho’s flute-rap instrumental, ending most of his lines with a different species of bird.
Although, sometimes the lax vibes breach complacency. The simplistic rhyme scheme and dark, xenophobic tone of ‘Zombie’ feels very incongruous set against the vibrant tones of the EP’s opening half. And on ‘Need Moor’, Heems and Riz MC are a bit too boastful for their own good as they weave a passable tale on their lifestyles post-fame.
Sufi La is certainly a fun little project from Heems and Riz MC and definitely offers a lot of replay quality even if the rapping isn’t as effective as it is on Cashmere. On opening track ‘Anthem’, Riz MC raps about being ‘king of his pigeonhole’ and he’s both right and wrong. Swet Shop Boys are certainly dominating the South Asian-American market with everything they do, especially as Riz continues to be praised for his acting. But the Sufi La EP also challenges that assertion of limitation; across these six tracks, Heems and Riz show that they aren’t just motivated by a need to be recognised and challenge stereotypes but by the desire to just kick it and have a good time.